West Valley seasonal residents, Ron and Teddy Smidt, were first reluctant to share their story in fear of looking foolish to friends and family. They then realized their story might prevent others from becoming a victim and losing thousands of dollars in the process. Now finally out of their timeshare, they have a message to share with anyone looking for a legitimate option.
“We bought our timeshare in Branson, Missouri twenty years ago for our family to enjoy,” reflects Teddy Smidt, a retired school teacher. “But life changes, our kids are grown and they didn’t want it.” She adds, “Today with Airbnb and VRBO you can rent a condo anytime, anywhere in the world.”
Local expert and Arizona native Alexandra Olson, CEO of Give Up My Time, says her company has seen a 300% jump in calls, referrals, and website visitors since the COVID-19 outbreak. Olson’s company has an “A” rating with BBB. Her concern is if calls have spiked with her company, they’ve also spiked with companies that may not be legitimate.
“Some seniors are afraid to travel. Others are tired of paying the increasing annual fees and still not get the availability they want. For many it’s more of a burden than a blessing.”
Olson knows the industry well as she once sold timeshare before the emergence of Airbnb and VRBO. “Back then, timeshare was a fair exchange. But that may not be the case anymore. Many changes to the industry have led to the fact that availability isn’t what it used to be.”
In October of 2019 the Smidts paid $6,000 to a company that promised to take over their timeshare and all its financial obligations. Fifteen months later, the Smidts received a maintenance fee bill from their timeshare resort confirming that no transfer of the title was ever done. They lost the $6,000 and still owned the timeshare they so badly wanted to get rid of.
“It was an awful feeling. I don’t want another senior couple or family to be lied to or cheated out their hard earned money,” says Teddy.
Give Up My Timeshare, unlike the majority of timeshare exit companies, does not ask for a deposit or payment information until after the title has transferred out of the client’s name. There is a fee the clients are aware of from the start of the entire transaction that’s completed in about 45 days.
Olson warns people wanting out of their timeshare, “You wouldn’t pay a real estate agent before your house has sold, so don’t be pressured into giving money before the title has transferred.”
Ron Smidt, a retired sheriff’s officer, was skeptical of Olson and Give Up My Timeshare after attending a seminar in Sun City at their community clubhouse.
“Teddy and I kept working with their people, providing our timeshare information, knowing we could back out the moment they ask for money, but that never happened.” Ron continues, “When we got the phone call that the timeshare was out of hands, Teddy and I cheered and clapped like kids. We were beyond happy!”
Olson has these tips against being scammed by timeshare exit companies:
Never give any money upfront or provide any payment info. She says it’s an easy transaction. “If they can’t wait a few weeks to get paid, you may not want to do business with them,” Olson states.
Don’t fall for the “buyer in the wings” tactic where a company calls you saying someone wants to buy your exact week. You will be offered a big sum of money but told you will first need to pay a “transaction fee” first.
Be aware of bad legal counsel. Some attorneys will tell clients to just stop paying the maintenance fee as a leverage for negotiations to get out. Just like home ownership, you can’t just stop making payments without risking impact to credit and other assets.
Olsen adds, “The ultimate question to ask of any exit company is to understand their business model. Ask yourself, is this sustainable? Are they maintaining integrity to the industry or trying to pull a scam here? We have a platform for maximizing these otherwise unwanted timeshares and repurposing them into vacation rentals so that the resort is not harmed by the ownership being transferred.”